Thursday, 26 February 2009

Part 1 Where to Buy / Where not to Buy.. That is the question

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"A Riad is a house with an internal courtyard - garden"

For years my wife and I have been trawling the narrow streets (derbs) in the Medina, the old walled-in city of Marrakech, looking for a suitable location for a Riad to purchase.

It dawned on me that I always chose hotels in the Kasbah district of the Medina, to set up Base Camp, whilst exploring.


The answer, for "Where to Buy"?, had been staring me in the face from outset.
The Imperial Kasbah. First Citadel of the Sultans of Morocco !!

The Kasbah is rich in community spirit, alive at night, has Royal Palaces, historic attractions and, moreover, feels safe.



Location... location .. location.... is the thing we "bang on about" in the UK.

The Kasbah is still a pretty substantial area to investigate and therfore location within the Kasbah would still be paramount. It made sense to add some criteria. Quiet, easy to access and MOST IMPORTANTLY ... easy to find.

Our first choice was dismissed for this very reason. The Riad was impressive and the price, on budget. All good so far..... our Estate Agent (Mohamed Mahmouch from Kasbah Immobilier) had been very accommodating and allowed us several arranged visits. When it came to decision time my wife and I elected to pay an unarranged visit to the Riad one evening, not necessarily to go inside but just to get a feel for the neighbourhood without the escort of the Estate Agent. A perfectly sensible and logical consideration.

"Well there's a thing"... we couldn't find it !!
Look hard.. oh yes we did. Look harder YES for 2 days!!

The problem was a simple but logistical and topographical nightmare. Each time we had visited the Riad with Mohamed, we had met him at his office, in Rue de la Kasbah (the main street in the Kasbah), and, without fail, he was always armed with a selection of keys.
Tapping his nose in an "all knowing" manner, we then darted and swerved across the Kasbah visiting alternative Riads en-route. It certainly helped Mohamed qualify the price of our chosen Riad and his un-supassed knowledge of the Kasbahs labyrinths BUT it did mean that we never visited our choice Riad from the same direction. He was keen to demonstrate his weaving techniques throughout the inter-linking derbs and we were always surprised to see what part of Rue de la Kasbah would eventually materialise.

The only thing that remained constant was the comment "how on earth did we arrive down here... or up here... or across here from over there".

Moral to the story. Don't buy a Riad that you cannot find again. If you can't find it then don't expect your friends to either.

Getting lost in the Kasbah is great fun. At the point where your suffering a sinking feeling that someone has blocked off the maze and your stuck inside the labyrinth forever wishing you had taken a tent, some water rations and an emergency flare, simply ask any local for directions to the Saadian Tombs. They'll gladly escort you and relieve you of some "small change". The Saadian Tombs makes the prefect landmark for you to re-gain your bearings.
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